“Of some new ferment at work in him Nick Lansing himself was equally aware. He was a better judge of the book he was trying to writing than either Suzy or Strefford; he knew its weaknesses, its treacheries, its tendency to slip through his fingers just as he thought his grasp tightest; but he also knew that at the very moment when it seemed to have failed him it would suddenly be back, beating its loud wings in his face….
“And between his moments of self-distrust he took himself at Susy’s valuation and found an unmixed joy in his task.
“Never — no, never! Had he been so boundlessly, so confidently happy. His hack-work had given him the habit of application, and now habit wore the glow of inspiration. His previous literary ventures had been timid and tentative: if this one was growing and strengthening in his hands, it must be because the conditions were so different. He was at ease, he was secure, he was satisfied …”
From “The Glimpses of the Moon” by Edith Wharton
It‘s always fun and instructive to see how a writer at the top of his or her game describes the act of writing. This novel was written after Edith’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “The Age of Innocence.”
We can all probably relate to the roller-coaster ride Nick is on: The awareness of his book’s “weaknesses” and “treacheries,” and its tendency to slip away from him just when he thought he had it under control. And the feeling that just when he thought “it seemed to have failed him it would suddenly be back, beating its loud wings.” What a wonderful way to describe the the way a project takes on a life of its own! How it becomes sometimes a friend and sometimes an enemy. Sometimes teasing and slipping away, and sometimes rewarding us with a sense of its aliveness. Wonderful!
And even more than this, we know those bouts of “self-distrust” and “unmixed joy in his task,” that Nick experiences — the lows and highs we all go through as we strive and struggle to capture our thoughts in a net of words. Self-doubt and joy — let’s accept them both as part of our journey. Write on!
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